December's midlife adventure was probably my most challenging; at least emotionally. I decided to take a solo trip to Spain whilst my husband visited our kids. We have been separated since the summer, so 2023 was a very tough year. Breakups are always challenging, but the end of a 22 year marriage hits like a tonne of bricks.
I have traveled abroad alone before, but always to stay with people on my arrival. This solo trip would be my first, and one I knew would bring up lots of emotions. Firstly, Spain was where Florin and I first met all those years ago, and ironically also ended up being the place we discovered our relationship was on its' final legs. In fact in June we spent a few days together in Spain at a beer spa (see previous blog) and I never would have believed things would fall apart so soon after. Not going into details and focusing on healing and supporting our kids, but for anyone going through a separation or divorce right now, just know that I now truly understand how hard it is. Not only does if feel like grieving someone who is still alive, but the life you had built together and the future you expected to have, is now gone. Picking up the pieces and figuring out what the Hell happens next is a form of mental torture.
Anyway, that's my heart on the sleeve part over. Back to the trip. The cheapest flight option meant traveling from Glasgow airport to Alicante and returning to Glasgow Prestwick. Please note, to any person considering flying to Scotland for the first time; to describe Prestwick as a Glasgow airport is extremely misleading, as it's miles away from the city and also tiny. I enjoyed the taxi ride with a woman driver ages with myself, experiencing the same daily trials and tribulations of raising teens. We love them, but God are they hard to deal with at times! I arrived in plenty of time and spent a couple hours people watching, wandering round the shops, and leisurely sipping my coffee.
The flight went to time and I arrived at Alicante airport nervous about my next challenge, collecting my hired car and finding my way to my accommodation. Already familiar with the tiny parking spaces and tight turns in Spanish car parks, I'd wisely opted for a small Fiat 500. I'd downloaded the app in advance which had promised saving time in collecting the keys. No such luck as I couldn't get my locker to open. Thankfully there was someone there to help and my limited Spanish (Duolingo) was not put into practise. The drive to Alfaz del Pi is one I've made many times, but normally in the passenger seat. Thankfully I made it, with no mistakes, and settled in for the night after catching a couple episodes of Virgin River, my favourite show at the time.
The next day I donned my giant sunglasses and stocked up at Carrefour for my 4 day break and then wandered round the mall.
All of these places have happy family memories, so it was challenging to re-frame them as a place I could visit and enjoy by myself, but I guess it was also therapeutic to do so. I visited Ale Hop, a Spanish chain with a wide variety of novelties and gimmicks. I'd forgotten my iphone earphones so managed to pick up a pair for my many beach walks I planned to take. New outfit from Mango, Spanish brand so cheaper than at home. I bought a plum coloured lounge set that normally I would have shied way from because of the colour, but as you may know, stepping outside my comfort zone is important to me, more so now than ever. Next some lunch; tostadas con tomates y cafe con leche. Proud of myself for ordering in Spanish AND being understood.
I enjoyed a day in Villajoyosa, another popular family haunt, with its' colourful buildings, palm trees and most importantly Valor chocolate cafe. A sun filled day walking along the beach, reading, listening to music and treating myself to coffee and chocolate drenched waffles was perfect. Strange to see Christmas trees in warm sunshine so near to palm trees, and in sharp contrast to the wrapped up against the cold photos of my kids back home visiting Christmas markets. My choice of read was Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (highly recommend)
Another place nearby I enjoyed visiting was Albir which has a white pebble beach and mosaic promenade featuring Hollywood style stars of famous Spanish people (can't say I'm an expert so not many names I knew). Disappointed that the frozen yoghurt place I like was closed for the winter, but still plenty of buzz for a seaside place in December. Before heading back I enjoyed a thai curry from a bar/restaurant overlooking the sea.
Wouldn't be a trip to Alicante without a visit to Benidorm now would it? Think sunny Blackpool and you won't be far off. In the summer months it can be pretty crazy with stag and hen parties, but December seemed to be tame. I parked a bit away and walked towards the beach, passing by "Benidorm's answer to Greggs" which never fails to put a smile on my face. Found a bar playing some decent music and spent the afternoon people watching and taking some notes on interesting characters (there were plenty of them) for future writing inspiration. Later I walked to the old town and wandered round the shops, finally deciding on pizza for dinner. Brought back memories of one of my first dates with Florin when he was shocked (and never let me hear the end of it) that I ate a whole pizza to myself. Oh to have the metabolism of a 21 year old again...A highlight of my day in Benidorm was passing by a lively beach bar with a very familiar song; 500 miles by The Proclaimers. One major difference, instead of the spectacled Scottish twins famed for that song, a thickly accented Spanish singer was belting out the beloved lyrics. Let's just say it was...memorable.
My last evening I walked to the nearest town and ate al fresco, much to the confusion of the locals who were all staying warm indoors. I ordered enchiladas and a beer, watching in confusion as a waiter came outside to clear a table of empty beers from a customer I'd seen order takeaway. The waiter then disappeared round the corner looking agitated and I soon figured out that dine and dash must also be a thing in Spain.
Heading to the airport to return my hire car whilst enjoying the upbeat dance tracks of Bikini FM, I reflected on my trip. There had been a range of emotions, sadness for sure, but also a sense of achievement that I'd pushed myself to go to a place so full of family memories and enjoy being on my own. I've been working hard on building my confidence, and proving to myself I could cope traveling and driving around alone in a foreign country, was a great way to improve that goal. I left behind the cactii and palm trees refreshed, ready to face the festive season and hopeful for a better 2024. Anyone considering solo travel or visiting a place they fear will bring up sadness, I suggest you go for it; re-framing a situation or a place into a positive experience can be extremely helpful.